The Scottish Highlands and islands have been named one of the top regions in the world for travellers in 2019.
Lonely Planet has revealed that the region has been listed among its top 10 “Best in Travel” destinations.
Featuring fifth on the list, the guide describes the Highlands and islands as “one of the wildest, least inhabited and most scenic parts of Europe”.
It gives special mention to the North Coast 500 driving route, the North East 250 and the Snow Roads.
‘Glorious natural landscape’
The Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019 is a highly-anticipated annual collection of the best travel destinations, trends, journeys and experiences to have in the year ahead.
It also reveals the top 10 regions, countries, cities and best value places to visit in 2019.
Piedmont in Italy, best known for being home to Leonardo Da Vinci, topped the “Best in Travel” list, followed by the Catskills in the USA, Northern Peru and the Red Centre in Australia.
Claiming fifth place, the Scottish Highlands and islands were commended for their “innovative and fast-developing” accommodation sector, ranging from purpose-built campervan parking spots, to designer cottages modelled on ancient buildings.
Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s editorial director, said: “The wild landscapes of Scotland’s Highlands and islands offer the ultimate escape and visiting the region’s remote areas is now easier than ever thanks to impressive developments in accommodation.
“This is a stunning area with so much to offer travellers, from its glorious natural landscape and rich history to enviable local food and drink.”
Visitor experiences listed included savouring the region’s sought-after seafood restaurants, enjoying a nature-watching trip, and climbing a mountain with the iconic peak of Suilven referenced following the repair and upgrade of its footpath.
Also highlighted in the four pages dedicated to the region, the North Coast 500 driving route which has been compared to the US’s Route 66.
Stretching more than 500 miles, it was developed as a way of bringing visitors to hidden parts of the Highlands and giving economic benefits to struggling communities.
The route has attracted 29,000 more visitors to the Highlands since its launch in 2015.
The distillery experience was also praised by Lonely Planet.
With over 20 distilleries opening in Scotland in the last two years, whisky is experiencing a boom not seen since the 1890s.
The guide said: “Whisky is the essence of the Highlands, a thousand years of history and culture distilled.”
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said he was “thrilled, though not entirely surprised” to see the Highlands and Island make the prestigious list.
“This stunning part of Scotland punches well above its weight on the world stage as a thriving holiday destination for people from both across the globe and the UK,” he added.
Highland Council leader, Margaret Davidson, said being chosen as one of Lonely Planet’s top regions was a “splendid accolade”.
She said: “I have always considered it one of the best places to visit not just for our fabulous scenery but also for the range of activities available, our distinct culture and of course the warm welcome for which the Highlands are famous.”
Scotland’s Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s fantastic to see the Highlands and Islands receive recognition for its breath-taking scenery, history and heritage.
“From its wide range of distilleries and tourist attractions, to its beautiful islands and iconic landmarks, I am sure the Lonely Planet’s support for the Highlands and Islands will help to inspire and captivate the imaginations of new visitors.”
Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the number one country to visit in 2019, whilst Copenhagen in Denmark was named “capital of cool” as the best city to visit in the year ahead.
Top 10 Regions in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019
- Piedmont, Italy
- The Catskills, USA
- Northern Peru
- The Red Centre, Australia
- Scotland’s Highlands and islands
- Russian Far East
- Gujarat, India
- Manitoba, Canada
- Normandy, France
- Elqui Valley, Chile